Saturday, September 30, 2006

violets and tea

A friend recently swore by tea for African violets. She said her grandmother brewed a pot of ordinary tea about once a month and once it cooled, she watered the violets -- always from the botttom -- with the tea.

Has anyone heard of this? No matter how far I google this, I can't find any references online to tea and African violets, except as a popular beverage imbibed by fanciers wherever they gather to see and talk about African violets or other gesneriads!

about men...

Couple of observations that have me puzzling....

Seems younger men these days enjoy going out with much older women, while older men tend to seek out much younger women. Generalizations are never safe, but, what's that all about?

Seems the most important criterion for men seeking women is proximity, within a radius of 50 miles or less! Could I have fun with that one!

Men often claim their "interests" are moonlit walks on the beach, cuddling, long conversations while sharing a good bottle of wine....Yeah, right! Pretty funny.

arrangements at the fair Posted by Picasa

foliage & flowers at the fair Posted by Picasa

flowers at the fair Posted by Picasa

odd synchronicity

Does it ever happen to you?

I swear this is true! I wrote about my determination to add running to my exercise regimen to up the cardio value of what I do. Then, I go to the laundromat and find stacks of what? No kidding: I found magazines from The Running Room, with all sorts of fascinating articles! How bizarre is that? And what I found even more weird was that there were no other magazines at the laundromat that day, just these magazines on running.

This happens to me often. When it does, I think I should pay attention. Don't you??

all that glitters... Posted by Picasa

all quiet at the fair Posted by Picasa

first prize Posted by Picasa

the lovely Isabel Posted by Picasa

child & piglets are not on the same page Posted by Picasa

child saying hello to Isabel, the donkey Posted by Picasa

ducks with ducky 'dos Posted by Picasa

horses & riders competing Posted by Picasa

a handsome fellow Posted by Picasa

cochin Posted by Picasa

artwork Posted by Picasa

a shy pair Posted by Picasa

a special chicken-hairdo Posted by Picasa

more great hairdo's Posted by Picasa

artwork Posted by Picasa

the fair

I went to the fair on Friday. It wasn't at all early -- I'm not an early morning person. But still, the fair wasn't busy. I found parking easily. The rides were silent. Many of the vendors hadn't even opened up for business. The horse events were in progress. In the little petting-zoo, the liveliest activity was in the pens of the goat and piglets, the goats watching the comings and goings of the people, the piglets rooting for food in the hay.

The judging of the poultry had started.

I watched the judging of the poultry for a long, long time. A single judge had to look at hundreds of birds. He would reach into a cage, grab a bird, hold it upside down to look at the feet, then spread out each wing, one at a time, to look at the feathers. Often, he looked at the back end of the chicken as well, maybe ruffling up the tail feathers. Then he would pop the bird back into its cage. Then, with a black marker, the judge wrote a number on some of the cards attached to each cage. After a while, I noticed a woman following behind the judge and his assistant, stapling a ribbon, sometimes a red one, sometimes a blue one, onto the cards the judge had marked. She began to talk to me.

Candace commented on the importance of maintaining the existence of the old breeds, how the Canadian horse was taken to the U.S. and modified into the Morgan and looks more and more like a Standard bred today (I only vaguely knew what she was talking about). Fairs like this, she said, are what keep some of the old breeds going. The pure breed needs to be put back in, once in a while, she said. Someone came along and took over the stapling of ribbons for her.

When I told her my name, Candace laughed and said she has a Finnish friend whose maiden name she cannot pronounce. When I asked, she began to give me all sorts of advice on how to start out with chickens. When I mentioned that I had actually never held a chicken, she called George over.

George opened up a cage holding some white Silkies with blue skin on the face, and voila: I was holding a chicken! Just a little nervously! Amazing how light the bird was ( the size of the bantam breeds). Candace thought I should avoid the breeds with feathered feet (messy). George, on the other hand, recommended the Cochins (with feathered feet) for their docile nature. Next, George got a lovely colourful little bantam rooster for me to hold. I marveled at the detailed colouring on the feathers. I got some hints on how to hold onto the feet with one hand while holding the bird's weight in my other hand. Candace assured me that eventually, I'd be able to accomplish all this with just one hand.

When the rooster started to struggle away from me, flapping his wings, I was surprised to find I wasn't the least bit alarmed.

Later, I happened to sit at a picnic table beside George and his wife to eat lunch. When I asked if the judging was over yet, George said it would probably continue well into the afternoon. The judge handled each and every bird, of hundreds! Now I understood why, when I had arrived, there wasn't any crowd, no anxious owners of the birds who I had thought would be there to watch the judging process. I had noticed the judge examining the feathers and Candace had told me the standard colouring must be on the feathers, on every single one. One black feather on a white breed and it's out. Obviously, I have a lot to learn. Candace had also told me that years ago, there had been so many poultry at the show that their cages had been stacked three-deep. George also told me that it isn't what it used to be, as his wife nodded in agreement, that there used to be so many poultry to judge, that it took two judges in the old days. George kept repeating: "this judge is handling every single bird", and seemed to be impressed with his thoroughness. He repeated what Candace had told me earlier, that if I wanted to see lots of poultry, I should be at the Royal in November. His wife nodded.

I met a lovely lady leading a donkey, Isabel. When she's at home, Isabel guards the lady's sheep from coyotes, wolves and bears. Isabel is very smart and friendly (except to dogs) so the lady thought Isabel would enjoy the fair and children might enjoy petting Isabel. I petted Isabel. But Isabel was not at all impressed with my attentions. She could see the horses participating in the events across the way. Isabel kept manouevring herself to better see the horses, and would have gone over there to say hello, if she had been allowed.

I met Macoumba, originally from Senegal, who was selling African art, clothing, jewelry and drums. Ah, how I would have loved to buy one of the drums. I liked the idea before I even heard Macoumba play one. After hearing the deep, resonating sound, I wanted one even more, sigh! He had rigged up an interesting affair to add a tinkling, cymbal-like sound to the drumming. On the side of his drum he had secured three pieces of sheet metal about the size of my hand, stiffly protruding outward, like petals on a daisy. Holes pierced around the rim of each piece of metal held small metal rings. These vibrated, jingling like "bells" on a tambourine, whenever he struck the drum, adding their own raspy sound to the deeper sounds of the drum.

Macoumba spoke with the charming round accents of west Africa. His skin was so black it almost looked like velvet in the cold autumn sunshine. He laughed, even white teeth in a broad smile, commenting on the chill in the weather. Instead of sleeping in the tent, as is his custom, he said he had had to spend the previous night in his vehicle to keep warm!

I made a brief visit to the crafts and produce displays, marveling that the "most unusual houseplant" was just like my own fuchsia which had spent the summer on the "back" porch. I admired a few quilts and some weaving. I chuckled at the artwork from various school classrooms. Then I took the long way home, to enjoy the fall colours.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


So, anybody who didn't read Twisty's review of Samantha King’s book, Pink Ribbons, Inc. , do go and read it. She makes so many good points about our society and health care, I had to go back and re-read it.

You might be tempted to say, oh, her comments are about American Society, not Canadian Society. For Canadians who believe they enjoy universal health care, let me point out that the working poor most likely do not get paid sick days at work, or extended health benefits of any kind. Most of us Canadians are blissfully unaware of how expensive health care is. (I personally know people in the U.S. who supposedly had great health insurance, whose benefits ran out, the insurance companies refused to cough up more money, and these people lost their homes etc. as a result of serious illness. In addition to a large number of people who cannot afford health insurance, many in the U.S. are under-insured.) The working poor without added health benefits are in dire straits, in Canada as well, universal health care or no. There are countless expenses that come up when a person becomes ill, and social welfare does not cover many of the gaps for the poor who are not poor enough to qualify for assistance. And those poor enough to qualify, will tell you if you ever bother to ask, that the process is cumbersome, demeaning and the assistance never enough.

Not exactly on topic, but in the rural area where I now live, I wonder: there must be many migrant workers who are in Canada who are injured or become ill. It is rare, very rare, that you see them get medical treatment. Why? If they are here legally, they should be covered by OHIP, should they not? Do they not know this? I'm not sure what's going on, but my gut feeling is that they do not know their rights, or they are afraid to exercise their rights. They are brought here to do hard work that few Canadians are willing to do. Perhaps they are also disadvantaged by the different language, and the prejudice against them for their colour and/or countries of origin. Who knows?

This is only one instance of the people who are "missed" by a system that is supposed to be universal.

Yet, all too many of my acquaintances are quite willing to write off the "outsiders" as undeserving, lay-about, probably criminal elements, who "take advantage of the system". I have to remind some people at my paying job all the time, when they start complaining about "immigrants", that I'm an immigrant. (I guess they forget that fact, because I don't speak with a foreign accent and I'm white.) Their response: "Yeah, but you're different; you're not like them."

Oh, and so who am I like?? pray tell! I certainly don't fit into the "traditional family" pattern of man, woman, 2.2 kids with 3 gas-guzzling SUV's in the driveway of a 3,000+sq.foot home cheek-by-jowl with other 3,000+sq.foot homes in a suburban housing development that has eaten up acres and acres of the limited arable farm land we have in Ontario. Those are the same people who get so damned uncomfortable because I'm not part of a couple, I like sex, I don't have a full-time paying job, I associate with and enjoy the company of all kinds of people, and I don't talk about shopping 24/7. I laugh, because time and time again, they are confronted by my differences, but no, they deny it. I'm ok, a little eccentric, but not like them.

So, yes, the pink campaign that appeals to the shopaholic, the people who are led to be super-consumers, still so unaware of how they are manipulated, smug in their pink-middle class security, that lets the misogynist, xenophobic, money-worshiping, patriarchal society off the hook, that pink campaign makes me mad!

out of shape

Molly and I are out of shape.

Now that the cooler fall weather is here, it's easier for me to imagine running. So, I thought I'd start a gradual training regimen. The yoga does increase my heart rate a bit, but I think I need more cardio in my life. Remember, I noticed that I got quite winded when playing skipping with Granddaughter!

When I started out this morning on my run, Misty and Molly begged to come along. I had my doubts about Molly being able to keep up, but then, I had doubts about my own abilities!

Sure enough, about half-way around my chosen course, Molly fell far behind. I even doubled back once to see where she was! When I finished my run, I walked back to my favorite grapevine for a snack of sweet, sweet grapes. Still, no Molly.

Finally, quite a long time later, I spotted Molly slowly making her way up the laneway. Walking back to meet her and encourage her along, I found an exhausted dog covered in mud! I figured she had stopped for a drink in some of the puddles along the way, but couldn't quite understand why she was black with mud!

As we made our slow way back to the house, we encountered more puddles. Molly slurped up a big drink, then flopped, hindlegs splayed out, stomach down, into the mud! Ah-haa! Mystery solved.

We made our way back home this way: walking slowly along until the next mud puddle, drink, flop, pant-pant-pant! or walking slowly along until a shady patch of cool grass, flop, pant-pant-pant!

I can't decide if I should take her with me on my next run or not. Obviously, she has become de-conditioned over the summer, as I had not been taking the dogs for walks as frequently, while the mosquitoes in the woods were so vicious. I'll have to go for daily walks with Molly, in addition to my daily training regimen, to get her in shape. Hopefully she can better keep up with my runs, soon. The cooler weather will make things easier for her.

Misty would have been ready to run 10K or more, today!

Monday, September 25, 2006

fall fairs

I wish I could say these photos are mine, or even better, that the chickens are mine. For ages and ages, I've wanted to keep chickens. The more varied and weird their colouring, the better. No, they don't have to be weird. I'm more interested in healthy, happy chickens of the traditional breeds. They should not be the over-bred, uni-purpose chickens that can't even stand up...

Guess which displays I always visit at our local country fall fairs??

Look for my new wish list update soon ;)

municipal elections

The landscape is dotted with the various signs asking me to vote for this or that person in the upcoming municipal elections.

I have to admit, I'm still quite in the dark about local politics. In fact, I'm embarrassed to say that because I drive all over the municipality, I'm not even quite sure which person on the signs is a candidate for my ward...

Local papers are scarce on details. The rhetoric is colourful and even vitriolic. It is often directed at the provincial and federal governments. Perhaps it's assumed (by those who have always lived here) that everybody knows everybody (and what they stand for) already. (I am a newcomer, after all.) However, I'm willing to bet that most people know more about who represents them at the provincial or federal level, than here locally, where perhaps it might have a most direct impact on their lives! ( I'm even willing to bet that our citizens are more familiar with, say, President Bush, than Prime Minister Stephen Harper.)

One of the most amusing things I ever saw was Rick Mercer's interviews of supposedly intelligent Americans, asking their opinions on fictional/mangled political/geographical "facts".
Sadly, I happen to know that Canadians are pretty much just as poorly informed, even about their own country and politics. It takes the individual effort of citizens to become informed for a democracy to work.

So, very much in the dark about actual local issues--other than the retro-wishes of those who want de-amalgamation of the City of Kawartha Lakes -- I have been wondering how to become better informed. The all-candidates meetings sound promising. I plan to be there.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


The power is out for some 90,000 hydro customers across central Ontario. It's cloudy, with sunny periods, with strong winds, gusting from 30 to 60 km an hour. The garage door, although latched, keeps getting tugged open by the wind and there it is, open again! It has jumped off the track in the past, assisted by the wind, so I'll have to lock that door, I think! But I have to get ready to go off to the city soon, to my paying job, so, I'll do that just before I leave.

I slept in later than usual. I'm not an early riser anyway, being accustomed to going to bed late. But this morning, I think the sound of the wind had me exhausted before I even got out of bed! The house is old and rather run down, but if the windows weren't open a bit, I would not have heard or felt the wind at all. For an old house, it's pretty snug against the wind. No, maybe there is the restless current of energy about, agitated by the wind, and I feel it through the soles of my feet right into my bones.

I thought when I did finally get out of bed, the leaves would all be gone off the trees. Enough of them are still green enough to be clinging to the trees however, so that there is only a little lightening of the space overhead.

I caught the tail end of something on CBC Radio about children learning through play. Then on the Vinyl Cafe, a story about daredevil kids building a ski jump...Aren't the best stories about play always the ones where we remember an little daring in the face of danger? And I've heard from more than one source that many school playgrounds now sport signs such as "no running"!

It seems that there is always this tension in our societies: the urge to keep everybody "safe" fighting against the urge to break loose, have an adventure, do something new, think a new thought!

As my son and I prepare for our trip to Ethiopia, I am getting anxious emails and letters from my parents about their own scary experiences when they lived in Ethiopia, almost 50 years ago now. The stories are wild: traveling with an armed guide/translator for fear of siftas, hospitals and homes looted and burned in the rioting during the troubles...On the other hand, I have friends and acquaintances who have traveled to Ethiopia much more recently and who claim it's very easy and safe these days (I understand this is a relative concept; when in my parents' day, there were no roads...).

I suspect that my mother never really liked living in Ethiopia. Although she was raised on a farm in Finland, this was too remote and rough even for her. She loves traveling, but "the country" was what she aspired to leave in her youth. For years after we left Africa, my father dreamed of returning. My mother's emails are frankly afraid for us and she can't understand why we want to go. Her memories are of constant heat and dirt, or endless rain and mud during rainy season, insects, and disease. Of course, her perspective would be different because she was at home, trying to keep a brood of little children healthy, clean, clothed and fed. My father's stories are funny, self-deprecating. He had to travel to remote places in the way of his work, often on foot, so actually had some dangerous experiences. However, my father's only suggestions are ways to be better informed and prepared before we go off to have our own adventures in Ethiopia.

I was musing about the differences of their experiences during the War as well.(WWII) My mother was 14 years old when refugees started arriving from Karelia. She did not have to attend school. She remembers a time of fun and music because she was young and enjoyed the arrival of the refugees. There was a cloud of suspicion and mistrust too. Strangers were on the roads. She remembers sleeping in an outbuilding in the summertime, the summer night still bright, her imagination conjuring up all sorts of dangerous, nefarious types skulking about...My father on the other hand, saw and heard too much: weapons, dying, dirt, bugs, deafening noise, tense waiting, winter misery in the trenches, corpses swelling in the summer heat...

How do our experiences shape us? I guess we can't predict that. Only hindsight might give us one or two clues.

In the meantime, I'm restless, anxious to finalize the plans and get on our way to Ethiopia.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

not pink, pissed

I hate it when my most cynical intuitions about an issue are proved right. For years, it was with a lot of misgiving that I watched the development of the "Look Good, Feel Good" campaign with the very corporations who are quite likely the very ones that produce the products containing the toxic chemicals that are so strongly linked to breast cancer. (check your antiperspirant -- it probably contains some forms of parabens) Then, corporation after corporation has started to sport the pink ribbon and promise that some portion of the profits goes to breast cancer research.

People want to do something. They hate to see their friends or family suffering or losing the battle to this terrible disease. But they do not respond to the suffering of men who have this disease. They do not understand that there may be several other diseases that a woman is far more likely to contract and die from. They pay no attention to the hundreds of thousands of women who are dying of AIDS in Africa and other parts of the world. Where's the pink ribbon campaign for them?

I'm not in any way suggesting that if you have a burning desire to do something you shouldn't be applauded. But do it intelligently. Make sure the corporation you are donating through is accountable, that they aren't contributing to the problem, that your donation is going where you intend it to go.

Even better, lets get back to what should be the true goal of Health Care: 1. promoting health, 2. preventing disease.

On "Ontario Today", on CBC Radio today, Thursday, Samantha King was on the show. She is the author of Pink Ribbons Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy, a book that warns people to watch out for corporations using breast cancer fundraising as part of their marketing campaigns. While King took care to point out that much good has been done by making breast cancer a topic that can be discussed in public where it once was only discussed in whispers (men suffering from the disease still generally hide in shame), and lauded the efforts to find less traumatic treatment, she did question why so little focus is on prevention.

A caller mentioned a group that I believe started in California (correct me if I'm wrong, because the coffee pot gurgled louder than the radio at this point) whose slogan is: I'm not pink, I'm pissed! Anybody know more about them?

What strikes me is that on some inner-gut level, many women realize that our society brings this disease upon us. Read the heart-wrenching reaction of Twisty, when she found she had breast cancer in 2005. Coincidentally, Twisty also blogs about King, on Sept. 19, 2006.

Monday, September 18, 2006

gardens & BLUE!

Below, couple pictures of the garden outside the Train Station Gallery, Fenelon Falls.

I've discovered I love blue. Oh, I'm still loyal to yellow, but it goes well with blue, doesn't it? After seeing it used in some interesting ways in gardens from England to the Pacific Northwest, I've decided I want more blue in my life. Just look at this wonderful bench outside the Train Station Gallery in Fenelon Falls, for example!

train station gallery

One of the most interesting businesses in Fenelon Falls, which I've failed to mention until now, is the Train Station Gallery, on Lindsay Street. A cooperative of fifteen artists and artisans has been operating this wonderful gallery now for two years.

A site steeped in history,the building has been freshened up and maintained in keeping with the aesthetic qualities of its period. Over the years, whenever I passed through Fenelon Falls, the building always attracted me. I believe it was occupied by the Chamber of Commerce before the Artists' Co-op moved in.

Sadly, the gallery will not be open after the end of September. This is a great pity, as many reasons for shopping there are coming up, in my life at least: birthdays, Christmas...And there is a lot to choose from at the gallery, at great prices. Imagine picking up an original painting for around $200. There is also a great selection of photographs, pen and ink drawings, watercolours, pottery, stone sculpture, jewelry, quilting and weaving.

The member artist on duty at the gallery, on any particular day, will usually be working in his/her medium. The artist I met on my first visit was quite happy to talk about the problems and the process of his painting-in-progress.

Well worth a visit, the hours are Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m., until the end of September.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Well, I thoroughtly enjoyed myself today giving a soapmaking workshop to a couple of friends. It is always an adventure, making soap from scratch, the old-fashioned way (well, not really old-fashioned, ie we don't stand over a cauldron of wood ash and home-rendered tallow...).

As you can see in the photo above, the recipe we used was based on a recipe from a book by Sandy Maine, and the mold is a tupperware container. Cutting uniform bars is problematic with this type of mold, but being the type available easily to many first-time soapmakers, it's what I chose to use today.

What do I mean by soapmaking being an adventure? It's more of an art than a science. What I mean is that no matter how many times I make soap, or how carefully I try to weigh out the ingredients, the process and results are always slightly different. That is part of the charm for me. It's almost like bread-making, how the weather, or maybe even your own mood, affects the results. Maybe some obsessively anal personality would find it maddening, but to me, that's the real charm of handmade soap. Most of the time, even though the process seems to wobble from crazy-fast trace for one batch to hours of stirring for another batch of the same recipe, you still end up with a pretty decent batch of soap in the end, one that you can be pretty certain of as to exactly what went into it.

For those who know me, it comes as no surprise that I'm very sceptical of the safety of most of the crisply uniform bars of commercially available soaps. They are more accurately called 'cleansing bars', as most of them are not actually "soap" in the oldfashioned sense of the word. Perhaps my luddite leanings make me a little suspicious of detergents, emulsifiers and preservativesthat make these cleansing bars work the same in any kind of water, maintain their hardness and have a shelf-life of ??forever. I know they do not leave my skin feeling the same as my own handmade soaps. I never hesitate to use my own soap even on my face, something I would not do with most commercially available soaps because of the drying effect they have on my skin.

OK, I'll admit it, I have always love mucking around with stuff, making things with my own hands -- especially when it is nice-smelling stuff!

Anyway, luddite or no, there is a wonderful piece of farm-machinery beside the old drive-shed on the property that has absolutely lyrical lines, a repetition of graceful curving tines that I think might be called a harrow. After another pot of tea once our soapmaking was done, my friends and I went for a short walk, and I pointed out this wonderful piece to them. It might more accurately be called a tool or implement, rather than a machine. I think I may have posted a photo of it before, but bless me if I can remember when or where! Ah, Friday, March 24, if you want to see what the h--- I'm talking about. (for non-Canadians, a way to swear without people knowing is to spell it: h, e, double hockey sticks)

I showed my friends the one yummy-tasting wild grape which grows along the drive. One of my friends picked bunches and bunches and took some home with her. I meant to give her lots of the basil to take home too because with frosty weather coming, it will end up on the compost pile because I don't like it dried much and the freezer is full. I have tried preserving it in oil, etc, but lets face it, it is not going to waste on the compost pile. It will turn into beautiful compost that will nourish my gardens, maybe even next fall at this time of year!

It was with great relief that I read the comment in an herb book by Patrick Limathat the surplus is just fine put on the compost -- I still feel a twinge of guilt about "waste". Ah, me. Will I ever be free of the guilt??